Steer Ancestors

The Steer Family from 1800-1940

L is the earliest picture of the Steer family by John Philip Davis (1784-1862). Exhibited in 1835 at the British Artists' Galleries, Suffolk St, it was presumably painted to celebrate the birth of William (r) in 1833. It shows John Steer, shortly before his untimely death in 183,7 and his wife Catherine (sometimes Catharine née Biddlecombe), with their son Charles I, who was their only child to live to adulthood.
John Steer was born 1798. Catherine gives his background as Birmingham Unitarian. His father is recorded as a jeweler, but both John, who became a barrister and assisted Blackstone in compiling the definitive work on english law which bears his name, and his brother Sam, who became a journalist, were evidently encouraged by the strong educational grounding of Unitarianism to aspire to a profession. Sam emigrated to the West Indies where he died c1827. Of a third brother, Luke who remained in Birmingham and is described variously as a jeweler and a teacher, nothing is known.

R Catherine (1799-1879) in old age. Read her remarkable memoir, including her moving description of John Steer's death.

L Charles Steer I (1824-1858) was forced to fend for himself. After some youthful vicissitudes he joined a firm of screw manufacturers named Nettlefold, who were also Unitarians. In the course of time he married Martha Nettlefold, and had five children before he too succumbed to a tragically early death.

R Martha (d.1905) in old age. There does not appear an earlier photo of her.

Charles Steer II (1850-1906) left school at 14 to be apprenticed to the family firm, which had by now become Nettlefold & Chamberlain, joined a year later by his brother Edward. Both brothers adopted Anglicanism and after they had risen to prominence in 'the family firm' were among the leading industrial philanthropists in Birmingham, along with the Cadburys and the Chamberlains. In 1902 Charles negotiated a merger between Guest, Keen and Nettlefold, becoming the first Chair of the company now known as GKN. Now an established businessman he built a mansion at Bromsgrove to match his status, for which his wife Emily designed the furniture, but died shortly after completing it. His brother Edward [below] succeeded to the Chair

1900. Ethel and May are Charles II's sisters. Mildred, John, Charles III and Elsa are his children.

Charles Steer III (1880-1959) was a Wykehamist who followed the religious calling of his father. Serving as a curate under Rev Robert Whitcombe in Romford Essex from 1905 at some point he fell in love with the rector's daughter, 15 years his junior. From 1910-1915 Charles served as a missionary in S Africa, but then enlisted as an Army padre, earning the DCM for bravery in Flanders. He and Elizabeth /Betty (1895-1977) married in 1918.

Betty on holiday in Wales in 1935 with their children Charles IV (b1920), David (1924-1990), and Jane (b1928). Photo by Katharine (Kaffin) Whitcombe. Michael (1922-6) died in Palestine while Charles III was chaplain to the Bishop of Jerusalem.

Steer Family Connexions
Steer main
Evans main
Parry memoirConnor
Catharine Biddlecombe Steer Memoir 1850
Elsa Steer Memoir 1957
Prospectus of Forelands sale 1919
Charles Steer IV Memoir 1999
Inventory of the Limpsfield Rectory 1931

Limpsfield was notable for a number of reasons. It was the home of the Harrison sisters, who all achieved musical celebrity, Beatrice & May being the respective dedicatees of Elgar's cello and violin concertos. Beatrice Harrison made some famous recordings for the BBC playing to nightingales in Staffhurst Wood - to be seen at the bottom of the picture.

The church and rectory are at the top left. Throu the intercession of the Harrisons Charles Steer was asked to bury Frederick Delius, after his death in France in 1934. As Delius was an avowed atheist this caused outrage in certain quarters, and the ceremony had to be conducted by night to thwart the intention of the Protestant Truth Society to disrupt the ceremony.

Subsequently Sir Thomas Beecham and Norman del Mar both chose to be buried alongside him.

Another famous Limpsfield resident was Arthur Rackham.

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